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How to Negotiate a Salary Offer

Updated January 1, 2024 . AmFam Team

You made it! After rounds of interviews and follow-up emails, you’re just a few steps away from landing your dream job. Now, an offer is on the table and you have to make a decision. Are you going to accept your potential employers’ proposed salary? Or are you going to negotiate a better salary for yourself?

Research shows that negotiating your starting salary is one of the most strategic financial decisions you can make for your career. Employees who negotiate their salary when they start a new job — and every few years thereafter — can earn significantly more in lifetime earnings (Opens in a new tab).

This is great news, but not everybody is comfortable asking for more money. A Glassdoor study showed that more than half of US employees didn’t negotiate (Opens in a new tab) their starting salary — leaving potential earnings on the table! One reason is some people worry that asking for more money might prompt an employer to withdraw the original job offer. But this scenario is extremely unlikely — 90% of employers said they’ve never rescinded a job offer (Opens in a new tab) because of negotiations during an interview. In fact, they expect you to negotiate!

Whether you’re new to the job market or a seasoned professional, negotiating a salary can feel intimidating. But it’s one of the most important conversations to have before accepting a new position. And once you have that conversation, you could be pleasantly surprised how well it could go! In this article, you’ll learn effective tips to negotiate a better salary, which could lead to increased income potential throughout your career.

Tips to Negotiate Your Salary

As you might expect, every salary negotiation is different. If you’re still building your resume, you may wonder if you’re justified in asking for more money. On the other hand, as a senior-level professional, you may be concerned that asking for too much money could motivate the company to seek younger, more affordable talent.

But fear not! It’s possible to avoid jeopardizing the opportunity in front of you without letting imposter syndrome or other doubts keep you from advocating for what you deserve to be paid. It’s all about the art of negotiation.

In today’s competitive job market, learning salary negotiation tactics is an essential skill. Not only will utilizing these tips ensure you are fairly compensated for your expertise, but they’ll also show you can effectively communicate your point of view to find a mutually beneficial agreement. Here are 10 tips to confidently ask for what you want in your salary negotiation.

Tip #1: Know Your Value

You know your experience makes you a desirable candidate for this position. But translating the hard skills on your resume into a monetary figure is a challenge. You don’t want to overestimate the value you bring, but you don’t want to underestimate your qualifications either. How do you determine a salary range that accurately reflects your expertise?

One way is to compare your skills and work history to the market value of this position. What are other companies willing to pay someone with your level of experience for a similar role? Use this research as a benchmark to find an acceptable range. If you discover that you have qualifications that go beyond the job description, highlight this competitive advantage during your interview. It may provide the leverage you need to earn the pay bump you’re requesting.

Tip #2: Know the Exact Number/Range of Salary You’re Looking For

When you enter a salary negotiation, you should have three numbers in mind: the lowest amount you are willing to accept, a mid-point figure and a high-point salary goal, which is the amount you would love to earn in a best-case scenario. The market research you do to determine your worth in the field is also a strategic way to arrive at these three numbers. Another rule of thumb is to calculate 10% to 20% above your existing income. In fact, research shows job seekers most often click on job links that pay, on average, 34% more than their current salary.

Here’s the catch. Instead of fixating on a general range — like $80,000 to $90,000 — have specific figures in mind. Candidates who use exact numbers in their salary negotiation are more likely to get a final offer that is closer to their desired pay range. The reason? Your employer will assume you’ve done thorough research to arrive at that number. Be prepared to zero in on a more defined range: “I’d like to earn between $82,500 and $86,000.” It is commonly suggested to list your mid-point figure as the bottom of your desired pay range. This sets you up to earn a slightly more competitive pay — one that is hopefully close to your high-point salary goal!

Tip #3: Show What You Can Do

Showing what you can do is a powerful strategy when negotiating a salary offer. Instead of solely focusing on your work history, demonstrate your skills and abilities during the interview with tangible evidence. Showcase your expertise through examples of projects you have successfully completed, metrics you have improved, or challenges you have overcome.

This is another point in time where specific figures can help build your case. Instead of stating that you optimized emails, get specific and say you increased email open rates 25% through user testing subject lines. Highlight this achievement. Did the social media campaign you spearheaded expand your Instagram following? Speak to that growth by pointing out how your following went up by 10%.

Showing what you can do builds credibility and illustrates your potential to contribute to the company’s success. It also demonstrates how your skills can produce a positive return on investment and align with your employers’ objectives for this role. Ultimately, by conveying what you can do, you elevate your negotiation position and strengthen your case for a competitive salary offer.

Tip #4: Know the Person Across the Table

By now you’ve conducted research for the role and have thoroughly examined your market value. Now, it’s time to get to know the person conducting your salary negotiations. Are you speaking with a human resource representative or recruiter? The founder and CEO of the start-up you’re eager to join? A department manager of a Fortune 500 company?

The person you are communicating with can greatly influence how your salary negotiation unfolds. For example, a recruiter may be able to communicate your desired salary range, but it would be the hiring manager who makes the final decision based on budget. Be thorough in your research and consider the person’s decision-making power!

Tip #5: Consider the Entire Job Package

It’s common to think that salary negotiations and “the job package” are one in the same — but they are not. A salary negotiation is one piece of your entire job package. A job package includes compensation, paid time off, parental leave, health and wellness benefits as well as the ability to work from home. What some companies lack in annual salary, may be balanced out with a competitive benefits package or unlimited paid time off.

Consider all that the company is offering you and weigh this against their proposed salary. Research shows that many employees are willing to accept lower pay in exchange for a great company culture or a role that is aligned with their long-term dreams and goals. Take these factors into consideration when preparing your salary negotiation! If an employer can’t meet your request to earn $5,000 more, you could ask for additional PTO or a work-from-home benefit.

Tip #6: Don’t Negotiate Just to Negotiate

Although negotiating your starting salary is considered best practice, it should be done with purpose — not simply for the sake of countering an initial offer. Remember, negotiating is not about winning or nickel-and-diming your potential employer. It’s about finding a mutually beneficial agreement that is good for the company — and for you — based on your unique contribution and financial needs.

That’s why it’s essential to provide strong evidence to support your counteroffer. Have a specific objective in mind: “Based on my research of someone in a similar role with comparable work history and education, I expected a pay range around [specific figures here]. Is there wiggle room in the pay range?” Or you could say, “I’m comfortable with the base salary, but my concern is the commute time to your office. To be more efficient and productive, I’d love the opportunity to work from home at least two days a week. Is this option available?”

Tip #7: Stay at the Table

In today’s job market, it’s not uncommon to participate in a lengthy screening process. More and more companies are leveraging recruiting services to vet and pre-screen job candidates before they can ever have a meeting with an internal hiring manager. It’s normal to feel like you are having many versions of the same conversation during the hiring process — but stay the course. While not every person you speak with will have decision-making power, continue to advocate for yourself at every touch point.

You can also use these conversations to find out more about what the company can offer you. For example, a pre-screen is an excellent time to learn about the employer’s budget for this role. It also gives you the opportunity before your first or second interview to do research on your market value and to decide on exact figures. By the time you speak with an internal hiring manager, you will feel more prepared to press for your desired salary, based on your unique qualifications.

Tip #8: Practice Your Pitch Beforehand

Knowing how to successfully negotiate your salary demonstrates emotional intelligence and professionalism. Negotiation is an art, after all. It reflects your ability to read the room, balance competing priorities and find a mutually beneficial solution.

To appear confident in your interview, practice your pitch beforehand. This gives you time to perfect your pace (you should speak moderately fast) and to avoid saying uncertain phrases like “um” or “maybe.” If you’re nervous, you may be prone to “upspeak” or use rising intonation at the end of a sentence that makes it sound like a question. Understandably, this could make you seem less confident. When you practice, be definitive: “My ideal salary range is $75,400 to $80,000.”

Tip #9: Make Sure to Ask Questions

Negotiations are just that — a back-and-forth conversation to exchange information. Come prepared with thoughtful questions to keep the dialogue moving in the right direction. The more you know about how an employer crafted this position and how they calculated the salary, the better you can tailor your negotiation.

Posing questions like “How did you determine this position’s salary range?” or “Is there a cap to what someone can earn in this role?” can help you gain context around salary structure and the opportunity for negotiation. You should also consider asking if any benefits are negotiable and if they’re willing to put the final salary and benefit package offer in writing.

Keep in mind, the key to a successful negotiation is finding an agreement that not only meets your needs now but also several years into the future. To inquire about your future earning potential, you could ask: “How do you determine raises?” and “What metrics do you use to evaluate the success of your employees?”

By asking the right questions, you’ll feel more secure in your opportunities to advance within the company, earn more money and develop your skills.

Tip #10: Take Your Time to Evaluate the Offer

There are many factors to consider when evaluating a job package and a proposed salary offer. It is normal to take your time before confirming your decision. Most recruiting experts say that requesting 48-72 hours to consider an offer is very common.

If the job package on the table is more robust — and includes things like relocation or other significant changes — you can ask for up to a week to make your decision. You may also be waiting to hear back from other companies to compare salary offers. Communicate your need to take time to make an informed decision! Your potential employer will respect that you want to carefully weigh your options.

Salary Negotiation Takes Practice

Negotiating a salary offer is a strategic and essential step to position yourself for long-term success — no matter where you are in your career. While it might seem intimidating to advocate for your needs and engage in a hard conversation, you can feel confident in what you are asking for if you approach the process with purpose and preparation.

Researching your market value and knowing your worth will help you find a starting point for your negotiation. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your unique qualifications. But, if you are feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea of landing on the “ideal” number during a negotiation, don’t fret. You will have many opportunities to negotiate a salary offer or ask for a raise in your career. You just have to be willing to have the conversation.

If you want support on your journey, you can find more tips and motivation in the Support For Your Dream career content.

This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.

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